Dear Thomas,
I have been "eyeing" someone that I go to church with for over 4 years now. I want to reach out to him, but I don't want the time we spend together to change if he doesn't feel the same way. We are in the choir, handbell choir, Sunday School, and small group together. I am also the children's choir director and he plays the guitar for us anytime I ask him to. We have been out to eat, bowling, to movies, etc. with our small group, and he is attentive to me. We talk to each other about personal things. My 4-year-old has been "his girl" since we moved here when she was an infant.

What I feel for him goes beyond physical attraction. He is talented, spiritual, friendly, very shy and quiet, working on his master's degree to be a middle school math teacher and has an awesome tenor voice that melts my heart. My minister and several others know of my feelings and are very encouraging, but I'm still apprehensive about telling him what I feel. Our minister told me to pray about it, and I said "I've been praying for 4 years about him, shouldn't I take that as a no?" He told me certainly not. Do you have any thoughts on this situation?
--Wondering What to Do

Dear Wondering,
You and your friend sound like very sensitive people. You have strong empathy for his feelings, and even though you are at the limit of your patience, you still don't want to rock his boat. In a generally insensitive world, I can only praise and support that kind of empathy.

You also feel an inhibition about pushing the relationship too quickly, and again, in a "proactive" world, it is unusual and laudatory to pay attention to inhibitions instead of running over them. They help you move ahead slowly and thoughtfully.

But there is another side to this picture. You could wait for this relationship to develop into something, and meanwhile watch your life pass by. Four years is a long time to wait. There's a difference between inhibition and temporizing. To temporize means to put off and let time go by without action.

Your impatience can help you here. In short, honor your impatience by doing something now, and at the same time honor your inhibition by doing it carefully and with continuing sensitivity. It does no good to temporize, simply to put off what needs to be done.

There are some hints in your letter about other issues that may be getting in your way. There's some sentimentality that may indicate that your feelings are not grounded and sufficiently realistic. Your daughter is "his girl," but apparently not in any serious and committed way. His voice melts your heart, but a relationship to a voice may not last. In general, it's wonderful to pray, but the advice to pray over this relationship makes even prayer sound superficial.

A relationship starts with two individuals. Rather than wait for the other to wake up and make a move, it might be useful to use your intelligence in all aspects of your life and take yourself more seriously. Anyone who waits four years for a romance to take root isn't giving her own life the attention it needs. In a stalled relationship, it may help more to focus on your own life than to try to engineer the relationship to the place you want. I'd say, be involved in your world. Have a more adult view of religion. Get stronger, more solid, and develop an edge. Your impatience is probably a cover for anger. Turn that anger into personal toughness and heft. Grow up into a person no one would want to pass by.

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